Neurology and Neurosurgery

Below, please find links to all of the clinical trials involving neurology and/or neurosurgery. The studies include a multitude of information, including (but not limited to) the study’s purpose, benefits for participating, and financial incentive information. If you have any questions, please contact the individual outlined at the end of each trial summary.

Please visit the Neurology & Neurosurgery service webpage at the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH) if you would like to learn more about the amazing things that our neurologists can do for you and your animal.  More information about the Neurology & Neurosurgery service research can be found here.


Diseases of the Spine in French Bulldogs: Understanding the Genetics

Title: Genetic investigation of vertebral column anomalies and degenerative disc disease in the French bulldog

Purpose of Study: Diseases affecting the spine, including congenital anomalies of the spine and intervertebral disc disease, are very common in French bulldogs and can cause debilitating pain, trouble walking and incontinence. Genetic mutations causing similar diseases have been identified in other breeds of dogs and we would like to compare them to the French Bulldogs in this study to help us identify specific gene(s) involved with congenital anomalies of the spine and intervertebral disc disease in French bulldogs.

Participation Requirements: French Bulldogs 5 years or older

Initial Evaluation for Participation: None.

Procedures: Once the consent form is signed, your dog will be admitted to the hospital for a few hours, during which your dog will get physical, neurological and orthopedic examinations, an ultrasound of the heart, and detailed x-rays of the entire spine (under light sedation). A blood sample will also collected at this time. We will discuss the results from these procedures and inform you of any abnormalities. As soon as sedation wears off, you will be able to take your dog home.

Benefits: There is no charge to you to allow your dog to participate in this clinical trial. All costs associated with the study will be paid by the sponsor/department.

There is no direct benefit of this study for you or your dog at this time; however, gaining a better understanding of the genetic mutations associated with congenital anomalies of the spine and intervertebral disc disease may lead to the development of a DNA based test or a database that will allow breeders to make informed breeding decisions.

Owner Responsibilities: If you allow your dog to participate in this study, you will be responsible for bringing your dog to your scheduled appointment at the VMTH and taking him/her home on the same day. We expect that participation in this clinical trial will last for a minimum of 2 hours, but we ask that you leave your dog at the VMTH for at least 3-4 hours so we have time to evaluate your dog and take x-rays of his/her spine.


Printable Flyer (PDF)

Myasthenia Gravis: Understanding the Genetics

Title: MHC Haplotyping of dogs with Acquired Myasthenia Gravis

Purpose of Study: Acquired myasthenia gravis is an immune mediated disease. In people, there is an association between genes (HLA DR3) and the myasthenia gravis. If the same is true in dogs, it may allow us to identify dogs at risk before the development of disease, and it may allow us to develop new treatments. The purpose of this study is to determine if dogs with acquired myasthenia gravis have a similar genes (MHC haplotype). We will use DNA collected from blood cells to do the genetic analysis. The genetic analysis will be done in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

Participation Requirements: Dogs with a confirmed diagnosis of acquired Myasthenia Gravis.

Initial Evaluation for Participation: None.

Procedures: The only procedure involved a DNA analysis of a blood sample submitted by the owner (at least 5 mls) in 1-2 EDTA tubes.

Benefits: There is no direct benefit of this study for you or your dog; however, the information may allow us to identify dogs that are at risk and develop new treatments.

Owner Responsibilities: The owner only needs to send in a blood sample that has been collected in 1-2 tubes of EDTA by over-night FedEx, Monday to Thursday.

Contact: Contact Dr. Vernau at (530) 752-1393, (530) 304-9450, or

Spinal Cord Injuries in Dogs: Finding a Treatment

Title: Transplantation and Tracking of Autologous Epidermal Neural Crest Stem Cells into the Spinal Cord of Dogs with Acute Severe Spinal Cord Injury

Purpose of Study: Dogs that have suffered spinal cord trauma due to a disc herniation are typically treated with decompressive surgery and medication of various kinds. Most dogs do very well with this treatment. However, dogs that have suffered an injury severe enough to cause complete paralysis and loss of feeling to the hind legs often do not recover with conventional treatment. In these dogs, stem cell therapy may improve the ability of the dog to use his/her hind legs and/or to have control of his/her bladder. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to examine the efficacy of stem cell therapy as a potential treatment for acute severe spinal cord injuries in dogs.

Participation Requirements: Small breed dogs with severe spinal cord injury that do not respond to conventional treatment(s)

Initial Evaluation for Participation: A neurological examination at the time of initial presentation to UC Davis will determine if your dog is a candidate for this study/treatment.

Procedures: If you agree to let your dog participate in this study, the following will happen:

Initial visit will include confirming that a severe spinal cord injury diagnosis via neurological examination, videotaping your dog’s gait (i.e., how they walk), an MRI under general anesthesia to confirm if a disc is herniated, and if so, which disc has sustained the injury, and back surgery (decompressive laminectomy) to relieve the compression caused by the herniated disc and to collect a small biopsy of skin at the same time.

The 1st recheck exam (approximately 12 days after back surgery) will involve another neurological exam to look for neurological improvement. If we find that your dog is recovering neurological function at that time, he/she will be removed from the study, as there is a very good chance that your dog will recover without stem cells. If we find that your dog is not recovering any neurological function, we will go forward with the stem cell therapy, which includes:

  • Back surgery under general anesthesia to locate the area where the spinal cord was injured by the disc herniation.
  • Injection of your dog’s own stem cells (harvested from the skin biopsy taken during the first surgery) into the spinal cord on either side of the injury.
  • An MRI immediately following the stem cell implantation to document exactly where the cells are located.
  • Additional recheck examinations at 4, 8, 12, 16, and 24 weeks following the stem cell treatment:
    • Week 4, 12, and 24 rechecks include a neurological examination, a videotape of your dog’s progress and an MRI under general anesthesia.
    • Week 8 and 16 rechecks include a neurological examination and videotape of your dog’s progress.
    • We would like to see your dog back every 6-12 months for a recheck as part of standard of care (i.e., following your dog’s participation in the study).

Benefits: Although you will be financially responsible for the initial visit, all routine pre-operative tests (labwork, thoracic radiographs, abdominal ultrasound), initial diagnostic MRI, anesthesia and spinal surgery to decompress the spinal cord, hospitalization until the time of discharge or 12 days (whichever comes first) and any complications relating to routine spinal surgery or your dog’s pre-existing medical conditions (approximate total of $5,500-6,000), the study will cover costs associated with the skin biopsy, all stem cell-related laboratory work/tests, the anesthesia and surgery to implant your dog’s own stem cells, recovery, and medication costs, all recheck examinations and follow-up anesthesia and MRIs.

We cannot promise benefits to your dog or other dogs from your taking part in this clinical trial. However, possible direct benefits could include improve in neurological function and/or quality of your dog’s life. Knowledge gained from this pilot study may help other dogs and possibly people with spinal cord injuries in the future.

Owner Responsibilities: Between recheck examinations, you will need to care for your dog at home, which involves caring for a dog that cannot walk and will need to have the bladder expressed at least twice daily (we will teach you how to do this). Bladder infections are common during this time and you may have to give medication to treat the infection.

If you allow your dog to participate in this study, you will be responsible for bringing your dog to all scheduled appointments at the VMTH including the monthly rechecks within a few days of the official recheck timeline. Once enrolled in the study, participation in this clinical trial will last for 6 months.

Contact: Contact Dr. Beverly Sturges at (530) 383-7480, or